Monday, 27 May 2013

An Epicurean delight...

Th last of my Covenant of Antarctica models has left the drydocks ready for fleet action.  The Epicurus class Sky Fortress...

A really nice looking model with a huge amount of detail, particularly on the under side.

In any case - here are some shots, from the early undercoats through to the finished beast...

After the finished base coat, a wash, and some highlighting, this is the final product:


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Painting Miniatures, the advice of a rank amateur...

A fellow gamer over on Google+ asked me about paints, brushes and all things painting.  I feel somewhat nervous writing this, as at best I really am a rank amateur, and far better advice can be found on a veritable multitude of blogs, websites and YouTube tutorials, not to mention books, magazines and DVDs.

Nonetheless I will offer what little I can on the topic, and hope that someone, like me, newly getting back into or about to embark upon the rewarding trial of miniature painting will find at least a starting point to this hobby.

Firstly I need to comment that miniature games and miniature painting can be a time consuming and expensive endeavor.  Time consuming because sitting down to paint a dozen or more little figures takes far longer than you might reasonably expect.  Expensive, because brushes, paints, undercoats and varnishes aren’t offered away free with handouts on the Second Coming (sadly, as they are certainly more useful).

Having written that, it should also be noted that it doesn’t need to be to much of either, there are many ways to save time when painting, although a certain element of patience certainly pays off, and you can easily do well with cheap acrylics, brushes, sprays and so forth from craft stores.

Without going on too much I’ll try and cover a little from the various topics that sprang to mind when considering what to put into this blog post.


Preparation is an important element in miniature painting, and depending on the quality you want at the end, is well worth the time at the beginning.

Some bloggers, websites and painting aficionados will advice you to wash your minis prior to beginning.  The releasing agent used to coat the molds in which miniatures are cast can, if not washed off, cause undercoat and paint to flake.  Personally I’ve never experienced this in a critical or damaging way, although some of my latest Dystopian Wars miniatures had some flaking of the undercoat - and I will be washing the next lot I order prior to beginning.

There are many solutions and ways of doing this, but generally from what I’ve read, some clean water, detergent, a toothbrush  and a little elbow-grease are more than adequate.

Trimming and Filing

Most miniatures come with some flash or visible mold lines.  These can be removed carefully with a scalpel, or a small file.  Be careful not to cut into the miniature, or file away important detail.  It may not seem much when your holding the metal, plastic or resin figure in your hand, but you will notice these things more when you come to wash or drybrush your miniature - and some time spent removing them is time well spent.

Getting the flash off the base of this Tiny Flier for Dystopian Wars

Trimming these 10mm Saxons and Late Romans with a scalpel and file


What sort of base do you want your figure to be on?  Many miniatures come with a cast base that is part of the figure.  This can be removed with a saw or scalpel, glued to a larger or better base, or left as is.  When you do it is also a preference thing.  Personally I like to get the base prepped at the same time as the rest of the mini as this will mean it is undercoated along with the figure itself.  With 20-28mm figures I tend to base them on 20-25mm bases (round or square - there are a multitude of types and varieties to choose from), and then cover the base with some wall putty or sand so the gap between the molded base and the one I have added looks natural.  In other words - I fill up the base with putty or sand so that it looks like the figures are standing on solid ground - not on little hills.  This also means the bases can have some texture to them, which helps finish them off nicely.

Glued to a 25mm round base
A 20mm MDF base, some PVA and a liberal coating of sand
Some wall-putty applied with an artists trowel and a couple of small stones.


Undercoating is a vital step, not only does it provide a consistent tone over which the paint can be applied, but it helps the paint spread and adhere to the figure you’re painting.  There are more types of undercoats than you can poke a stick at, but generally a good undercoat is one where the grains of paint aren’t so large that they obscure the detail of the figure.  Don’t spray too close - several light even layers is better than one thick one.  I tend to like white undercoat, but there are many opinions on this - use whatever suits the effect you want.  White means you need to make sure your base coat covers everything, black means that light pigments (like red and yellow) may struggle to cover the undercoat and still be as bright as you would like.  One may suit your particular style or an effect you are after, run with whatever suits best.

Several light layers of undercoat later...


Paints are obviously very important.  I used cheap acrylics for years and was very happy with the results, since getting back into the hobby I bought the Army Painter Mega boxed set (some 35 or so paints) and haven’t looked back.  Vallejo also do a massive set, Games Workshop, Coat de Arms... there are many companies that produce paints and a set is a good way to grab a bunch in one go.  The key factors here are that paints specifically designed for miniature painting tend to have finer pigments - so the thickness of the paint won’t clog the details.  In all honesty I was happy with my cheaper paints, and I still have and use some of them occasionally (for bases, terrain and larger less detailed surface areas).

If you are just getting into the hobby a smaller starter set from Games Workshop or the Army Painter (or similar) is probably not a bad way to go.  It all depends how much you want to invest from the get-go.  If you have the spare cash the full set of Vallejo paints would be fantastic, but if miniature painting is something you’ll do only now and then, then cheap acrylics or a smaller starter set might be a better option.


Washes and Inks aren’t paints.  Firstly I never really use inks (remember I wrote I was a rank amateur), but washes are invaluable.  The Army Painter set I mentioned above comes with three washes, light, medium and dark - and all have a brownish tinge to them.  For miniature people and creatures this is fantastic, for my Dystopian Wars fleet it would have made the white look muddy, so I purchased some Vallejo washes to complement my paint set.  I’ll comment more on the use of these later.


Many companies make dips.  Dip painting is a method that allows you to paint a multitude of figures in a relatively short amount of time.  The results look good, but I prefer the process of washing and highlighting.  This one is down to preference.  The Army Painter website has some great videos on the dip method of painting - and there are many more on YouTube.

Paint Brushes

The one thing that is probably worth spending a little extra cash on is a good paint brush or two.  I tend to use a size 2 brush for almost everything, though smaller sizes (0, or 00) can be great for really tiny details like eyes.  At the moment I am using the Army Painter brushes that came in my set, but I think I’ll be grabbing one or two better brushes soon.  Also - care for your brushes! Don’t leave them sitting in the water tip down, you will ruin them!

Ok, so you’ve got the gear, you’ve prepped your minis, they’re undercoated and ready to paint...

I tend to mount the miniatures I’m painting on a handle of some sort - usually a a lump of Blu-Tack and little wooden block or old paint bottle, even a film canister is handy. This means I won’t be touching the mini while I’m painting, and rubbing off my careful (or not so careful) work.

I also tend to batch paint, so I mount a bunch of minis that I’ll be using the same paint scheme (or similar enough).  This means that after I’ve painted the armour on one, I can put it down and do the armour on the next, and so on while the completed ones are drying.  I find I waste less paint this way (I use a palette to squeeze the paint onto), and I get more done.  In short I think it’s more efficient.

The Base Coat

Know what colours will be used where...

The base coat is a neat painting of the model.  All the colours are filled in, made neat and tidy, and generally complete.  If you happen to get a bit of dark paint over an area that will be light, go over the spill with a little white before coming back to the light paint (this will make the lighter coat smoother).  I tend to paint the larger areas on the model first, and go from darker tones to lighter tones.  I also paint the base.

There are several methods to quickly add and pick out the detail in your figure.

Base coat done
After washing, drybrushing, highlighting, sealing and basing


Once your model is base coated, you take it and submerge it in the dip (holding the base, or holding the mini base in a pair of pliers).  You them flick the miniature over some newspaper or similar to get rid of excess dip, and let the dip set.  Dips are basically like a wood varnish, and will both shade the model, and seal it so you’re paint won’t come off.  Many companies produce dips, and they can also be painted on rather than going with the full submerge.  I’ve never personally done this, but I’ve seen good results from it.


Washes are similar to dips, without the ability to seal the model.  Washes come in a variety of colours and are basically watered down paints (I’m sure aficionados, who if they’re still reading, will at this comment pause to emit a howl of disbelief).

Washes can also be further watered down by the addition of... yes, water.

Load a brush with the wash (and I tend to use a larger brush of this) and liberally coat the area or miniature with the wash.  The watery nature of the wash will cause it to settle in the recesses, which will, when dried, add a layer of shading that is pleasing to behold.  You can leave the figure here, or you can go step further and highlight, whatever you do is up to you.  The advantage of a wash over the dip is that you have more control over it, you can control how thickly it is applied, and where it is applied to (a watered down blue wash for the white cloak, a black wash for the armour...).

Use one wash at a time and let the first wash dry completely before doing anything else to the miniature (like adding another wash, more paint, drybrushing or whatever).  If you have used too much, dry your brush and place the tip in the watery excess - some or all of which will be sucked back into the brush.


Drybrushing is essentially getting an old brush, loading it with a small amount of the paint you require, flicking the brush on tissue or paper until nearly all of it is gone, and then flicking it gently over the area you want to drybrush.

The basic idea (despite my inadequate description) is that the paintbrush has very little (very little) paint on it, so when you flick or run it over the surface you are drybrushing, the raised areas of the miniature catch some of that paint, but none is deposited in the lower or recessed areas.  Drybrushing can lead to really nice effects, but you need to be very careful about how much paint is one the brush, because it can very easily be too much.

Drybrushing can also be messy, it can lead to paint getting on surrounding areas, so be careful with how you use it.  If you’ve washed a miniature, you might choose to drybrush in the same colour as the base coat of the area you are drybrushing, or you might choose a lighter tone.  You can also layer drybrushing, appliying a heavier drybrush with a mid-tone, and then a light or very light drybrush with a lighter tone.

When I paint rocks I tend to undercoat in black, heavily drybrush in a dark gray, drybrush again, but not so heavily in a lighter gray, and then very lightly drybrush with a white.  I think it looks swell - but you may be tearing your eyes out, so it’s really down to using it to get the effect you want.

A bleached bone undercoat, with a heavy drybrush over the top
Stone walls, painted as described above


Highlighting is basically the same as the base coat, it’s painting, but with a lighter tone on the upraised areas, and blending that down into the recesses.  Less is more in most cases (and in my humble opinion).


Now you’ve put all that energy in, you want to make sure the paint and detail stays on the figure and doesn’t come off on your fingers when you pick it up.  There are two types of varnish you can use to seal your minis, gloss or matte.  Gloss is stronger, but highly reflective.  Matte allows all your work to stand out without being obscured by the glare of reflected light burning into your retina.  I’ve also read of people using a gloss varnish (for strength) and then a matte finish over the top (or an anti-shine finish) to get rid of the glare.  I use a matte spray.  I also ocasionally use a paint on.  You might want to mix and match - using a gloss paint on varnish on the eyes of a bedeviled loon, and a matte paint on varnish on his ascetic wardrobe...

Oh - and add your static grass or flock after you spray your miniature!  Speaking of which...


All of the effects above can also be used on your base to shade and highlight the texture you have placed there, some static grass, grass tufts or other little details really add to the overall effect - and are well worth putting energy into.  Of course keep in mind how the minis will be used - no use having a nice grassy base for a miniature that will spend most of its time trekking through a cobbled dungeon.

Some finished miniatures...

Phew - well that’s that.  Sorry that was so long, and I hope it may be of some use to some of you reading.  I really can’t recommend enough looking at other miniature painting blogs and websites around the web - they are filled with amazing artists doing some stunning work.  I really am, after all, a rank amateur.


Edit: I mentioned that there are many places around the web to find more and better advice - aside from the multitude of wonderful blogs on miniature painting, whether on blogger, wordpress, tumblr or where ever, there is also Cool Mini Or Not, WAMP, and there is a fantastic guild over on Boardgamegeek devoted to miniature painting...

Friday, 17 May 2013


The last model from the Covenant of Antarctica base fleet set has now been painted.  The last of these was the Aristotle class Battleship.

I'm very glad to have finished it, and am very happy with how the fleet has come together.  Now to get them to the table...

This shows what the Aristotle looks like when it uses its Wave Lurker MAR.  This special ability allows the Battleship to semi-submerge, reducing it's profile and opening the opportunity to hide behind other ships or terrain that it would not have been able to otherwise.

I'm very happy with how the whole set has come up:

Now I have the Epicurus to paint... and decide which of what I'm going to be grabbing next from Spartan!  I'm looking at more Covenant (of course), perhaps a British fleet, and most certainly I want to find a place for an Australian fleet (recently announced).


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Platonic Turrets...

I bit the bullet this evening, and rather continuing with a model that would be more fun, I sat down to quickly finish off the 18 or so turrets for my Plato and Aristotle ships for Dystopian Wars.

Overall I'm very happy with how everything has come together...


Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A solid Plato...

Here is a quick shot of my Plato.  I know I posted about this yesterday, but I had a chance to play with some of the photos. In this case all the photos were taken on my phone, and then put into the frame (with added text) in an app called Diptic - which has lots of options and flexibility when putting this sort of multi-photo image together.  My image may not be the best example of what can be done, but it's fun to muck about with.

App icon - the best one I've used for this sort of thing.

In any case - here's the shot:

Covenant Plato Cruisers

Well, I've finally finished the Plato Cruisers for my Covenant of Antarctica fleet for Dystopian Wars.  Thanks to the blistering pace set by my brother I've felt under all sorts of pressure to get paint to model, and good thing too probably - otherwise they'd still be languishing in their tawdry undercoat, hoping for that happy day when they would be painted to arrive...

Here's a bit of a walkthrough from start to finish...

And now the final wash and highlighting has been completed:

I still have a multitude of small turrets to paint for them, and of course the two big models to round out what I have so far, but I think it's all coming along nicely!

I might add that these sculpts, from Spartan Games (of course), are absolutely fantastic - very detailed, well thought out and, I think, stylish.


Saturday, 11 May 2013

Covenant of Antarctica Air Wing...

The airforce component of my Covenant of Antarctica fleet is finally painted, that included 17 bases of tiny fliers and two Ptolemy Class bombers...